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5 Time-Saving Tricks for Adobe Illustrator

Liam McKay April 29, 2021 · 5 min read

With any skill that you learn, or any tool that you get comfortable designing with, there will inevitably be quicker ways to achieve the things that you already know how to do — today we are going to explore 5 time-saving tricks in Adobe Illustrator that could do just that!
Whether you are a just starting out with Illustrator, or it has been your go-to tool for years it’s always fascinating to seek out new ways of working with a design tool and keeping your options open, as more often than not there is multiple ways of tackling any task within a program and anything that can save you a little time on a task could make your entire workflow more streamlined for future projects.
Let’s take a look at five very simple, but effective Illustrator tricks that could save you time and energy in the future.

1. Select similar layers

Illustrator has a wonderful feature that I’d love to see more widely available in other apps – it gives you the ability to select layers based on their appearance. For example if you want to select all shapes in a document with the same color, you can simply select a shape with that color, then go to your main menu bar and hit “Select” > “Same” > “Fill Color”.
This will then automatically select all layers with that same fill color for you. This can save a bunch of time and it can be done with any visual parameter, you can do the same to find similar items by their Stroke, Opacity, Blending Mode and more.

2. Move or rotate individual characters with Touch Type

By pressing Shift + T you will be able to select characters on existing text layers and move them around independently of the other characters on your layer. This gives you the ability to correct or fine-tune the kerning a specific character if it doesn’t look quite right, or you can use it creatively to make playful compositions with your text. Likewise once this tool is open and you’ve selected a character you can also rotate a single character on its own for a little more expression and playfulness.

3. Lock all other layers

It’s common in Illustrator to lock layers that you don’t want to accidentally touch while you are adding in new artwork. Obviously you can just click the lock icons to control which layers are active and which ones cannot be touched, but once you’ve got a number of layers stacked up this can take time to organize which layers are on and which ones are off. One very simple method to control this is to just hold the ALT key (or Option on Mac) then click the lock of the one layer that you want to be active, this will then lock all other layers at once for you, keeping you free to work on the one layer you do want to work on, while protecting all other layers.

4. Use custom ‘Views’ to set scroll and zoom positions

Moving around to different parts of your artboard can be done manually simply by scrolling, or zooming in to specific parts of your artwork as needed. But there might be an easier way. Using ‘Views’ is almost like setting different cameras up for you artboard, you can set up one view for a wide, zoomed out look at your work, then set another one that is an extreme close up for when you want to get into the details. Any common positions that you might want to return to can be set.
Doing this is simple, you just zoom in or scroll to the exact position and scale that you would like to save, then just hit “View” in the main menu, then go to “New View…” and that will save your current position with the name that you give it. This will allow you to quickly go back to this exact spot, with the same scroll and zoom settings at any point in the future.

5. Pop Out Tools from the Toolbar

Most design tools have far more features and tools than they can display at any one time, as a result, knowing where things are hidden is something you get used to over time. But even if you know where a tool is, it might not always be best positioned. There might be certain tasks you are working on where you might like some tools that are hidden behind drop-down menus to be visible for a short while. Thankfully in Illustrator you can get tools that are hidden in the toolbar to stay on the screen for as long as you need them by simply clicking the small arrow on the right of the drop-down. This will pop all of those tools out in their own little window and keep them there for as long as you need. The tools will always be available back in their usual spot too, even if you close this window, so it’s just a way to keep them on the screen for a short while to save you time when needed.

Share your time-saving Illustrator tips

I’m a fairly basic Illustrator user myself, while I’m comfortable using it, there’s a lot of features I don’t fully put to their best use, so I’d love to hear what you’d like to add to this list, what other time-saving tips and features can you suggest for me and other Illustrator users, let me know in the comments!


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Liam McKay

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7 Comments
  • Anonymous
    Thank you very much for the information. I have been working as a designer for over 2 years, but with each new article I learn more and more interesting ways to improve my work. 2 years ago
  • Thank you for sharing! 2 years ago
  • Many thanks for the useful tips 2 years ago
  • Glad you found these useful :) 2 years ago
  • Hi Liam, I found this article very helpful. One of my favorite features of Illustrator is having Smart Guides turned on under the View menu. It helps with drawing and aligning things up. 2 years ago
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  • Whoa these are great! I love learning all these tips: my favorites are the moving individual letters, locking layers tip and selecting everything of the same color. What a true time saver! One thing I wanna know is how to "solo" just a layer easily; After Effects allows that and I love that. 2 years ago